Users work with paper prototype of mobile device

Paper Prototype

A Paper Prototype is a paper representation of your interface that you can construct in order to cost-effectively test during the earliest design stages. It could be a series of screens printed out from a near-complete design, or a pencil-and-paper wireframe with just enough detail for testing. This allows you to show anyone your design in the office, on the street, at a Starbucks, or at your home before any code has been written. While a Paper Prototype benefits from being very low-cost, they can be time consuming to construct and therefore may seem not to be time savers. However, the development time saved will be enormous.

Category:
Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Each Iteration: 10 Minutes – 4 Hours
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

Exactly what you need (and what you have on hand to use) will vary, but here is a list of the basic requirements:

  • Material for the interface to be drawn or printed on – printer paper, cardstock, or notebook paper
  • Simulations of interactions – Sticky notes, overhead projector transparency sheets, dry-erase markers
  • The interface’s design – Pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, etc. (or design software, a printer, and paper)
  • Cutting tools – scissors, xacto knife and cutting board
  • Adhesives – glue, tape, rubber cement

Carry Out This Method

Step One

Determine the specific flow you will be testing. Building a paper prototype of your entire site or app would not be practical.

Step Two

Since this is not a once-size-fits-all method, we recommend having a look at our Pinterest board for Paper Prototypes for ideas on how to simulate your interface.

Step Three

Once you have a prototype constructed, you can test interactive elements, the layout, wording, or task flows depending on the level of fidelity. Paper prototypes are especially suited for Guerrilla Usability Test methods.

  • If you need to simulate alert conditions during tests, you can have a team member or yourself pretend to be the computer and “beep” at your test subject or speak alert text aloud.

Step Four

Iterate your paper prototype based on feedback, and test the new version with more users. Repeat as necessary.

 

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